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9 Jerky No-No’s

With most projects we always seem to get a list of things ‘to do’, but we don’t always see what we shouldn’t do or what might create a problem. So, let’s take a quick look at some of the pitfalls of making your own homemade jerky.

  1. Buying meat that is too old or meat with too much fat.
  2. Not trimming enough of the fat from the meat.
  3. Slicing the meat too thick or having each slice a different thickness.
  4. Not using a cure (salt).
  5. Not marinating long enough.
  6. Not drying the meat either properly or long enough.
  7. Trying to make too much jerky the first time.
  8. Placing meat slices directly onto a cookie sheet when making jerky in an oven.
  9. Not leaving the oven door slightly open when making jerky in the oven.
Solutions

Most of these can easily be solved by doing a few simple things.

1) Buying meat that is too old or meat with too much fat – Always buy fresh meat and meat that has the least amount of fat. If your grocery store has a butcher counter, get the butcher to help you select the leanest cut of meat available.   (Learn more.)

2) Not trimming enough of the fat from the meat – Always trim as much fat as you can. This includes the outside edges and the veins of fat that run through the cut of meat.

3) Slicing the meat too thick or having each slice a different thickness – To have all of your jerky dry uniformly, your slices should all be the same thickness. If you have a good eye, a sharp knife can be used. If you have trouble slicing, then an electric slicer may be a good investment. Note: Don’t forget that having the meat slightly frozen makes the slicing easier.  (Learn more)

4) Not using a cure (salt) – Using a cure helps reduce the potential for microbial growth . . . responsible for the meat spoiling. Using a pre-packaged marinade for your jerky helps to ensure you have the correct amount of cure and flavor of choice.  (Learn more.)

5) Not marinating long enough – marinating is typically set at 24 hours minimum. However, if you are using a packaged marinade, follow manufacturer’s directions.

6) Not drying the meat either properly or long enough – Jerky can be dried in an oven, in a smoker, on the BBQ grill or in a dehydrator. The results you want for your jerky and your schedule will determine the method you use. If you want a smoky flavor, then use a smoker or BBQ grill. Otherwise a dehydrator works well – and for those that want to try making jerky without investing in equipment, the oven is a good option as long as the correct procedure is followed.

7) Trying to make too much jerky the first time – for your first time making jerky, make a limited amount. This gives you the opportunity to go through the process and make adjustments to flavor, drying, time, etc, as needed.

8) Placing meat slices directly onto a cookie sheet when making jerky in an oven – If you make jerky in the oven, place the meat strips on wire racks – NOT directly on the cookie sheet. This keeps the meat out of the drippings and also allows the air to circulate.

9) Not leaving the oven door slightly open when making jerky in the oven – when making jerky in a kitchen oven, leave the door slightly open to allow the air to circulate. (Learn more about making jerky in a home oven.)

 

Homemade jerky can be a fun, thrifty way to have jerky at home as long as you make it correctly. Correctly made jerky should be hard to bend – but bend a little,  and it should not have a bad smell. Having a bad smell is a sure sign that the organisms that cause spoilage are contaminating the meat.

 

 

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